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USA Fencing Board of Directors Creates Working Group to Discuss Ways to Eliminate Referee Abuse

09/10/2023, 4:30pm CDT
By Bryan Wendell

The group, which consists of a diverse group of stakeholders, will consider the future of rule t.109 and ways to combat referee abuse, with its report expected by the December 2023 Board meeting.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Fencing referees are some of the hardest working in all of sports, and like all top-tier sports officials, they must be protected from abuse of any kind coming from fencers, coaches or spectators. 

That was the driving factor behind a key decision on Sunday afternoon in Denver, where the USA Fencing Board of Directors approved Motion 6, aimed at re-evaluating the implementation of rule t.109, sometimes called the “strip coaching” rule, with the goal of eliminating verbal abuse toward referees. 

The motion, proposed by At-Large Director Peter Burchard, calls for the formation of a working group to discuss and recommend the future of the rule. The group is expected to report back by the December 2023 meeting.

The working group will consist of a diverse set of stakeholders, including:

  • Chair of the Referee Commission: Tasha Martin

  • Vice Chair of the Referee Commission for Rules & Examinations: As appointed by the Chair of the Referee Commission

  • Board of Directors Liaison to the Referee Commission: Ivan Lee OLY

  • Tournament Committee: As appointed by the Chair of the Referee Commission

  • Active FIE Referee: As appointed by the Chair of the Referee Commission

  • Two 10-Year Athletes (meaning someone who has been fencing for at least that long): To be appointed by the USA Fencing Athlete Council

  • National Coach: As appointed by the Chair of the Referee Commission

  • Staff Liaison/Staff Support:  As appointed by the National Office

The motion comes after the Board of Directors voted in its 2022-2023 sessions to align rule t.109 with the FIE wording and replace the USA Fencing adaptation. That was followed by an emergency vote of the 2023-24 Board cohort on Sept. 1 to pause the implementation of that decision.

The working group will aim to find a consensus on how best to implement the rule across all stakeholders.

Worth noting for anyone competing in a tournament between now and the working group’s report in December: The suspension remains intact on the new interpretation of rule t.109 until further notice.

 That means the following interpretation remains valid:

In USA Fencing competitions, coaches and spectators are allowed to give advice to fencers, but cf. t.130, as well as t.131 and the associated USA Fencing note. In all situations, coaches and spectators must not disturb the order of the bout.

Motions Passed on Sunday

The Board passed the following motions:

  • Motion 2: The Board approved the 2023 Financial Policy and Procedures, subject to an independent audit. This update follows a review by the USA Finance team and includes minor changes, such as clarifying expense requirements and the levels of involvement needed from the CEO or the Board.

  • Motion 3: The Board ruled that all Y8 competitions will now follow the same field of play rules as Y10 competitions. This decision aims to provide clarity for local and regional organizers who have begun scheduling Y8 events without specific guidelines. This will act as an interim measure while the Board/Youth Development Resource Group review to determine if any further changes to Y8 events are needed. As a reminder, national points are not accrued at Y8 competitions.

  • Motion 4: The processes for the Referees’ Commission Nominating Committee for the 2024 election were outlined, with the Board moving to ensure that parafencing representation would be included. Further details will be available in the meeting agenda and minutes, with this motion setting the stage for a transparent and organized election process.

  • Motion 5: Eligibility criteria for voters in the 2024 Referees’ Commission election were defined. Voters must be licensed referees who have worked at least two North American Cup; Summer Nationals and July Challenge; National Junior, Senior or Wheelchair Championship; or international events tournaments during the 2021-22, 2022-23, or 2023-24 seasons.

  • Motion 6: Outlined above.

Tag(s): Updates